While I may not be so tech-savvy, I do love the Internet. If I need information of any kind, all I have to do is type a few words, and up pops a response. For example, the other day I typed in "rash," "itchy," and "cure," and seconds later I had a diagnosis. Several, in fact, so I could choose the one that fit me best. I learned the rash could be fungal, bacterial, parasitic or viral. And it could be poison oak, dermatitis, psoriasis, drug reaction, heat rash or diaper rash.

After reading about each one and discarding most -- poison oak (no exposure), drug reaction (no drugs), heat (no hot weather), diaper (not using them yet) -- I saved myself hours in the waiting room and could jump right to the cure: "Stop using Clearasil and switch to Retin-A."

Before I had the Internet to answer all of my questions, I only had two resources -- the local library or my dad. The library was inconvenient because I had to get a ride there, then find the right resources, then know how to spell the question, then read hundreds of pages, only to find something like: "See also outbreak, epidemic, eruption, spots ...."

My other option was my dad, who would create a big chart and explain the answer in a long-winded pointless story that caused extreme drowsiness. Or he'd simply say, "Go ask your mother."

Today, instead of using a Ouija board to find out if Elvis is really dead or calling the operator to find out how long to boil eggs or asking a Magic Ball a question when it always answered, "Ask again later," I use the Internet for everything.


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Yesterday I wanted to know:

1. How to sharpen my paper cutter (take it to a professional paper cutter sharpener so you don't cut your hand off);

2. What is "the funk" that James Brown invented, ("a two-celled onbeat/offbeat structure, which originated in sub-Saharan African music traditions");

3. If zombies were real? (my grandson wanted to know, and no, they're not, unless you're given tetrodotoxin found in puffer fish, in which case you could be put in a zombielike state); and

4. How do you spell "servaylentz" (surveillance)?

When I'm writing a mystery novel, I need to do lots of research. I have to know things like "What kind of poisons are undetectable?" (the Poison Dart Frog, among others), "How fast can a police car go?" (130-plus mph in a Crown Vic), "What's in embalming fluid?" (formaldehyde, not tetrodotoxin), and "How do I overcome writer's block?" (have a margarita).

Sometimes my books take place in locations that I can't visit personally, such as an FBI building, so I do the research online simply by asking the Internet, "What's inside the FBI building?" I usually get a good answer, but sometimes the responses is something like, "We'd tell you, but then we'd have to kill you." Then I just make stuff up.

Best of all, the Internet helps me answer most of my grandchildren's questions. The other day my grandson asked, "Where do babies come from?"

This time I told him to go ask his father.

Instead, he said, "Never mind, I'll Google it."

Reach Penny Warner at www. pennywarner.com.